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Texas | Columns | Lone Star Diary

"Law West Of The Pecos"

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery
Over the years, small-town newspapers have found it necessary to supplement the local news with other sources of material to help fill up their pages. In the old days, when there weren’t a lot of newsworthy events taking place, the local paper would fill space with features or magazine-type material.

Way back in 1924, The Moulton Eagle (Moulton, Texas) was presenting a column called “Tales of the Old Frontier” which was written by a fellow named Scott Watson. It is probable that the paper subscribed to an outside source and received this article on a weekly basis. I found Watson’s stories to be entertaining but in some cases not exactly “historically accurate.”

However, the following story about Judge Roy Bean is quite humorous and is the subject of this month’s Lone Star Diary.
Jersey Lilly Saloon, Langtry, Texas
The Jersey Lilly Saloon and Judge Roy Bean's courtroom
Langtry, Texas

Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/ %7Etxpstcrd/

“Law West Of The Pecos”

The Moulton Eagle – March 21, 1924
You will look in vain for Eagle’s Nest on the map of Texas today, for the town of Langtry (named for Lillie Langtry of theatrical renown) has taken its place. But in the old days of 40 years ago Eagle’s Nest was famed for just one thing – a saloon. On the front of this building was a sign which read “Judge Roy Bean, Justice of the Peace, Law West of the Pecos.”

For this “red eye” emporium was also the temple of justice for a domain of thousands of square miles, and over it ruled Roy Bean, a king in his own right, whose scepter was a Colt .45-caliber pistol. He was the only justice of the peace in western Texas and he was equipped only with a copy of the Ohio statutes of ancient vintage, a sense of fair play and a strong belief in his ability to interpret the law as it should be, whether it was written that way or not.

He was judge, jury and lord high executioner and there was no appeal from his decisions.

Once two Mexican couples came to him and announced that they wanted to trade life partners. The judge questioned them closely, found them all of the same mind, charged each of the men $15 and a dozen bottles of beer and pronounced the job done. Some time later a state official complained to Bean that in granting this unconventional divorce he had exceeded his authority.

“Why, say!” exclaimed His Honor indignantly. “Have I ever butted into your affairs? They wanted to swap, they paid me, they’re livin’ perfectly happy and nobody ‘round here has found fault. You just go back to Austin and handle your courts the way you want, but this is out of your jurisdiction.”

Judge Bean’s “Law West of the Pecos” was uniformly profitable for him. One day an eastern tourist entered his saloon and ordered a bottle of beer. He laid down a $20 gold piece which Bean promptly pocketed.

The tenderfoot demanded his change and upon being denied it started an argument. “Court’s in session,” announced the judge immediately. “That beer cost you 50 cents and you’re fined $19.50 for disturbing the peace!”


© Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary October 11, 2010 Column
See Langtry, Texas

On Judge Roy Bean:

  • Ten Things You Should Know About Judge Roy Bean by John Troesser
  • Ten More Things You Should Know About Judge Roy Bean by John Troesser
    The Jersey Lilly: Where 'sidebar' has a very literal meaning
  • “Law West Of The Pecos” by Murray Montgomery
    The Moulton Eagle – March 21, 1924
  • Langtry: A West Texas Love Story by Michael Barr
  • Roy Bean Before His Law West Of The Pecos Days by Lois Zook Wauson
  • Langtry, Texas

  • Related Topics:
    Texas Outlaws | Texas People |
    Small Town Sagas | Texas History | Texas | Texas Towns |

     

     

     

     

     


    More on Judge Roy Bean:
  • Ten Things You Should Know About Judge Roy Bean by John Troesser
  • Ten More Things You Should Know About Judge Roy Bean by John Troesser
    The Jersey Lilly: Where 'sidebar' has a very literal meaning
  • Langtry: A West Texas Love Story by Michael Barr
  • Roy Bean Before His Law West Of The Pecos Days by Lois Zook Wauson
  • Langtry, Texas
  •  



    COLUMNS:
  • Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
  • Clay Coppedge - "Letters from Central Texas"
  • Murray Montgomery - "Lone Star Diary"
  • Wanda Orton - "Wandering"
  • Michael Barr - "Hindsights"
  • Maggie Van Ostrand - "A Balloon in Cactus"
  • David Knape - "Once Upon A Line" Poems
  • Roger Todd Moore - "Moore Texas" Cartoons
  • John Troesser
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